NHRC alarmed over life threatening high level pollution in Delhi-NCR: Issues notices to the Centre and Governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab on their action plan to tackle it (09.11.2017)

PRESS RELEASE

New Delhi, 9th November, 2017
Taking a serious view of the life threatening high pollution in Delhi-NCR, the National Human Rights Commission has observed that it is apparent that the concerned authorities have not taken proper steps throughout the year to tackle this hazard, which is amounting to violation of the Right to Life and Health of the residents in the region.

In its suo motu cognizance of several media reports in this regard, the Commission has sought reports, within two weeks, from the different Union Ministries and Governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab about the effective steps taken and proposed to be taken by them to tackle the situation.

Notices have been issued to the Secretaries of Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Highways and Road Transport along with the Chief Secretaries of the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

The Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is expected to give details about the preparedness of the government hospitals and other agencies to attend to the people affected by pollution and steps taken to create awareness among the public at large.

The Commission is of the opinion that there is an immediate need for effective action to be taken by the Union and the State agencies. Proper implementation of the environmental laws is necessary. The state cannot leave its citizens to die due to the toxic haze. There is a need for an effective study by the experts and proper implementation of their recommendations, including short term and long term measures identified. There is also a need for preventive medical check-ups for the people.

It has observed that almost every newspaper and TV channel has been running stories on the subject. The toxic smog in the atmosphere of the city has become an annual health hazard, particularly, at the time when the winters are about to start. Several reasons have been mentioned including pollution caused by the vehicles, particularly trucks and heavy vehicles running on diesel, dust participles due to construction work going in and around Delhi-NCR region, burning of stubble by the farmers in the States of Punjab and Haryana including the "calm wind condition" and high humidity, which are beyond human control. Proposals of alternative roads to link the highways to avoid entry of the heavy vehicles inside the cities have been in the contemplation but no effective steps in this regard have yet been taken.

Reportedly, the smog is a deadly mix of crop-burning pollutants coming from the State of Punjab and Haryana and the moisture entering the region from the State of Uttar Pradesh. The Ghaziabad and Noida are the worst affected locations in the National Capital Region. As per reports, the air quality index has dangerously crossed the 448 points which is very alarming. The Government of NCT of Delhi have ordered all the schools in the city to remain closed till the 12th November, 2017 following a warning issued by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on the 7th November, 2017, to the authorities. Some instruments have recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) maximum of 999 at some places. It is further mentioned that the air quality in the world's most polluted capital city plunged to levels likened to smoking at least 50 cigarettes in a single day. One of the news websites reports that the situation is the worst, as it has touched the 1,000 mark on the air quality index, in certain parts of Delhi.
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